An Epic Saturday

 

Last weekend, I enjoyed an action packed day in my beloved hometown.

It started at Bistro LeSteak on the Upper East Side with my dear friend Crystal. This eatery is a cozy slice of French charm, with charming decorative touches like Impressionist wall paintings and draped ceilings.

?

Bistro Le Steak’s window seating is charming

Crystal and I settled into a table by the window. Over a delicious brunch (my first taste of eggs Benedict with crabcake. Yum!), we caught up on life, work, family and more.

With her incandescent smile and genuine warmth, Crystal is always like a dose of sunshine. She has a gift for making you see the beauty and fun of what’s right in front of you– as I rediscovered when we strolled through Central Park.

IMG_9530

Reconnecting with my inner child in Central Park

As we took a leisurely turn on the swings, I savored the lush surroundings and muted sounds that make the park such a haven for New Yorkers. It hit me how lucky I am to have this gem a short walk away.

After saying goodbye to Crystal, I headed down to Union Square, where I met up with LA-based galpal and blogger Tess. Over cocktails and appetizers at The Coffee Shop restaurant, we talked about why Westin rocks as a hotel brand — yes, I’m an employee but I legitimately love it. And how there’s no city in the world like New York.

French Flavored Fun In Times Square

There’s no better way to start the weekend than catching up with a dear friend.

Last Friday, I did just that with that with galpal Stacy. Stacy and I connected four years ago on Twitter over our love for Ricky Martin. We have since enjoyed many epic nights out in NYC — we’re also both foodies — and this one was right up there.

We met up at Café Un Deux Trois, a delightful slice of French charm located just off of Times Square.

20150828_195414

Café Un Deux Trois: magnifique!

The attentive, friendly service and yummy fare didn’t disappoint. It was truly a shared experience, as we split a crisp bottle of wine and perfect escargot, then each had sauteed Dorade with vegetables. For dessert–a heavenly duo of chocolate crepes and (a longtime tradition for us) creme brulee. Delicieux.

20150828_192045

Dessert perfection: Creme Brulee

Over dinner, we talked about work, the increasingly swift passage of time and travels both recent and upcoming. Along with a potential December getaway overseas, we’re planning a weekend jaunt for this fall. Because as much as we’re both New York City gals, sometimes you need a break from all the hustle and bustle. And it’s a lot more fun when you have fantastic friends to do it with.

Pure Joy: U2 & Disney’s Aladdin

One of my favorite things about living in NYC is being able to experience the world’s best entertainment. My dear friend Sara and I recently enjoyed two memorable nights of music and theater.

We joined a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden for one of U2’s eight shows there. The beloved Irish rockers delivered on the Innocence + Experience theme of their current tour, taking the audience on a powerful journey during their 2.5 hour set.

U2

U2 rocked Madison Square Garden

U2 played on two stages and a suspended cage that served as both another stage and projector. Throughout the show, a series of images flashed–from a rendering of teenage Bono writing a song for his future wife to family photos and shooting stars in “Iris,” a moving tribute to his late mom. The setlist covered tracks from their current album Songs of Innocence alongside classic hits including “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Desire,” “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Beautiful Day.”

Sprinkled throughout were messages of social activism, filtered through the lens of the heartfelt reflection that comes with getting older. Bono spoke with gratitude for fan support of U2’s Red campaign against AIDS, also expressing thanks for the band’s longevity.

For the encore, they ended with “Where The Streets Have No Name” and a version of “One” that had everyone happily obliging Bono’s request to–

“Sing yourselves home.”

No doubt about it—U2 is still one of the greatest rock bands of our time.

Just a few days after being wowed by U2, Sara and I headed to the New Amsterdam Theater to see Aladdin. The stage version of Disney’s beloved 1994 animated film delivers plenty of laughs, heart and romance.

Dazzling choreography, colorful sets and rapid fire costume changes (337 costumes in total!) vividly bring the classic story to life. Aladdin features new songs penned for the show in addition to iconic numbers from the movie. Aladdin and Jasmin’s magic carpet ride to “A Whole New World” is spectacularly recreated.

13.10_Aladdin2460g786

James Monroe Iglehart dazzles as the genie (Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann/AladdinTheMusical.com)

Adam Jacobs is easy to like as Aladdin, Courtney Reed less so—her portrayal of Jasmine comes off as more bratty than spunky. Jonathan Freeman, who voiced villainous Jafar in the movie, reprises his role with panache. He’s almost upstaged by Don Darryl Rivera, a fireball of wicked energy as snarky sidekick Iago. But Aladdin’s biggest star is Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart. With his infectiously charming portrayal of the genie, Iglehart brings down the house, truly making this iconic role his own.

Aladdin is pure joy – an Arabian Night that’s enjoyable from start to final curtain call.

Summer Nights In NYC

One of the best parts of living in New York is stumbling upon someplace wonderful where you least expect it–especially when it comes to culinary delights.

Back in April, a Google search led me to Il Punto. And a few weeks ago, my cousin Alexandra and I returned to this gem of a restaurant. It didn’t disappoint.

IlPunto

Il Punto: an Italian gem in Hell’s Kitchen (photo courtesy: ilpuntoristorante.com)

Located on the corner of Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, Il Punto is an inviting bistro with delicious pasta and seafood dishes and a host who exemplifies Italian charm. We were well taken care of by both him and the wait staff this second time too.

Alexandra and I split a bottle of Collio Sauvignon Blanc, which we were introduced to during our April visit.

After a complimentary amuse bouche, we savored our entrees, capped off by panna cotta for dessert and a complimentary round of limoncello. It was a truly epic night, with nearly six (!) hours of soul soothing conversation and laughter made even more enjoyable by the setting.

A very different but equally engaging venue provided the backdrop for Thursday’s night out with gal pal Lauren. We met up at Skylight Modern in Chelsea for Travel +Leisure‘s party celebrating its annual World’s Best Awards.

20150723_210111

The scene at T+L’s World’s Best Awards party

The swanky soiree featured a fashionable crowd, on-site sand artist and award winners dressed in authentic attire representing various destinations. In addition to signature cocktails, the menu included passed hors d’oeuvres (empanadas, mini grilled cheese, caprese sticks, tuna tartar) and food stations (paella, lobster rolls, fried clam sandwiches, crab cakes). Delish.

While savoring both the menu and the people watching, Lauren and I caught up on summer travels, work and home makeover projects.

Two fantastic nights on the town with two of my favorite ladies. Summer in NYC simply doesn’t get any better than that.

Two All-time NYC Favorites

I recently had the pleasure of catching up with two friends I hadn’t seen in awhile–over dinner at two of my favorite NYC restaurants.

First, I enjoyed a night out in the neighborhood with gal pal Lisa. We headed to Ko Sushi, a cozy Japanese eatery on the UES that never disappoints (best shumai dumplings ever and yummy sushi rolls).

An accomplished magazine editor and travel writer, Lisa shares my lifelong passion for NYC and I always love hearing about her latest adventures in and out of our hometown. We also talked about the profound blessing of being happy in our respective careers and never taking it for granted.

My good Stacy and I reconnected over drinks and appetizers at Pershing Square. This laidback bistro and bar right across from Grand Central serves up delicious bistro fare in a comfortable setting ideal for conversation.

Pershing-Square-Cafe-NYC-865-461

Pershing Square Cafe (photo courtesy: pershingsquare.com)

We had plenty to talk about — from memorable concerts and developments at work to the soul soothing joys of travel.

As Stacy shared her recent jaunt to London, I felt a wave of nostalgia for my other favorite city–the only place I love as much as NYC.

Well, almost as much.

Catching Up With A Dear Friend

Friday, I headed out to New Jersey for a night out with my Ohio-based friend Marilyn, her daughter Karen and son in law Russ. Marilyn was in town for her grandson’s high school graduation, so we were celebrating.

20150619_192221

Marilyn and me

We went to dinner at Ursino, a fabulous restaurant located on the campus of Kean University. Featuring a farm to table menu and picture perfect views of fountains and greenery, Ursino is a truly delightful experience. Both the food and service are fantastic.

Over a delicious meal (kale salad, halibut and angel food cake, yum!), we talked about European travel, how romantic relationships develop and city versus suburban life.

As the evening progressed, I couldn’t help thinking about how much has changed for me since I last saw Marilyn in September.

At the time, I was very much at a crossroads, considering a move out of New York and feeling pretty down. Now, I can’t imagine leaving my beloved hometown — and it has given me so much since I recommitted to staying here.

Work remains a tremendous joy, as I enjoy juggling three hotels and my new title of Complex Marketing Manager. Family and friends nearby continue to nourish my spirit. And I’m nearing the completion of my home makeover. With summer officially here, it truly feels like a new season on several fronts.

Aren’t new beginnings just wonderful?

A Trio of Weekend Getaways

Anyone who knows me knows travel is one of my greatest passions. And over the last month, I set a personal travel record–three back to back weekend getaways. Each one afforded the opportunity to reconnect with beloved friends and family for milestone occasions.

First, I headed to Mount Holyoke for my 20-year college reunion. A happy wave of nostalgia and pride in my alma mater infused my return to campus. There is something magical about being part of this sisterhood of uncommon women. That feeling was deeply present as we participated in the laurel parade, a longstanding MHC tradition in which reunion classes are followed by the graduating seniors. The seniors then weave a laurel chain around MHC founder Mary Lyon’s grave before singing the moving anthem “Bread and Roses.”

MHCCollage

Snapshots from my 20 year reunion: MHC women rock.

At reunion, I had the pleasure of catching up with dear friends Traci and Dana, reuniting with dorm neighbor Cristina and seeing first year floormate Aimee. Two decades fell away as Aimee and I talked about how our lives have unfolded since graduation. Amazing.

Getaway #2 took me to Toronto, for a girls weekend with dear friends Jackie and Belgium-based Cindy.

20150522_163934

Girls weekend fun: (from left) Cindy, me and Jackie

Taking advantage of picture perfect weather, we explored some top attractions in my former hometown: the CN Tower, Toronto Island and historic public buildings offering complimentary admission as part of Doors Open. Along the way, of course, we enjoyed wonderful conversations about life, love and the importance of good friends in navigating the trials and triumphs of life.

Last weekend, my beloved cousin Alexandra and I headed to Jersey City to celebrate her college graduation. Our home for the weekend – the fantastic Westin hotel. I  won the stay here during a regional Starwood employee event and it was just as rejuvenating as I anticipated. We were welcomed with a suite upgrade and wine and cake pops.

20150529_224126

All smiles: Alexandra and me

After spending hours chatting the night away, Alexandra and I headed across the street to Battello, a lively, sprawling bistro along the water with spectacular skyline views. Alexa is more like a sister than a cousin to me and I treasure the bond we share.

All of weekend getaways nourished my spirit and gave me much-needed quality time with some of my nearest and dearest. Traveling so much in a short span of time also reinforced that old and ever so true adage – there’s no place like home.

Cruising Around NYC With CitySights

One of my favorite things to do is play tourist in my hometown. I recently got to do just that, thanks to an invitation from Citysights NY to try one of their sightseeing cruises.

cruise view

Even with overcast skies, NYC’s skyline never disappoints

Though the weather wasn’t ideal (overcast and chilly), the trip more than made up for it.

BFF Sara joined me for the 90-minute twilight cruise, which covers every borough except one (the Bronx) — and offers fascinating insights into the past, present and future of NYC.

bridge

NYC’s majestic Brooklyn Bridge

Our tour guide Michael, who proudly informed us he hasn’t missed a boat ride in 15 years, was one of the best I’ve ever experienced. An engaging combination of Manhattan moxie and salt of the earth charm, Michael couldn’t be a better ambassador for this great city.

As we approached the Statue of Liberty in the distance, he encouraged passengers not to stand up right away.

“We’re going to get close enough to her that you can ask for her number if your wife will let you,” he quipped, adding. “It’s we the people, not me the people.”

All smiles in front of Lady Liberty

He regaled us with historical facts, pop culture trivia and poignant reflections on such defining moments as the first immigrants to come through Ellis Island and 9/11.

When we thanked Michael upon disembarking, I informed him we were locals and had a great time.

“Praise from Caesar!” he said without missing a beat.

Well deserved.

Whether you’re a native New Yorker or just visiting, a Citysights NY cruise is a great way to see the city. For tickets and more info, click here.

Two Memorable Nights With Members of My Tribe

One of the great delights of living in NYC is experiencing something new right in your neighborhood. I enjoyed exactly that during a recent girls night out with my dear friend Crystal.

We met up at Jones Wood Foundry, a gastropub that made me nostalgic for my other favorite city, London. The cozy venue has British knickknacks on the walls (i.e. signs from the London underground) and affable staff — including a great bartender with that charming UK accent.

20150425_200116

All smiles in Central Park

After drinks, a delicious cheese plate and dinner, Crystal and I headed over to Central Park, just in time to catch the sunset. We walked around for awhile, savoring the beautiful spring weather and our good fortune to live in a city with such a horticultural jewel.

Gratitude was also part of the conversation when I caught up this week with gal pal Carla at Latin-Asian fusion eatery Zengo in Midtown.

A supermom of four who juggles family and work and always looks fabulously stylish, Carla is an inspiration in addition to being a good friend.

Over sangria, shared dumplings and dessert, we talked about work, recent travels and the importance of friends. Carla mentioned a blog post that talks about how an amazing woman we both knew who recently died unexpectedly cultivated a tribe of wonderful friends.

As she said that, I thought about my own tribe, of which Carla and Crystal are cherished members. My tribe of friends have seen me through so many trials and triumphs. They are, to paraphrase one of my favorite sayings, the family I have chosen for myself.

I couldn’t have chosen any better.

An Evening In Times Square

When it comes to Times Square, I’m one of those rare New Yorkers who actually likes it. Between working in the Crossroads of the World and being a Broadway aficionado, I appreciate it as an apex of hustle and bustle — and great dining if you know where to go.

During a recent girls night out with my work BFF Lisa, we headed to two of my favorite Times Square spots. First stop —The Lambs Club, a cozy bar and restaurant at the Chatwal Hotel that is equal parts swanky and boutique-style charm.

the-lambs-club

The Lambs Club’s upstairs bar. Love the NYC-themed light fixtures! (photo courtesy: Facebook.com/TheLambsClub)

Over cocktails and a tasty plate of hot mixed nuts, we talked about old friends, new beginnings and taking chances. Then, it was off to Café Un Deux Trois, a delightful French bistro that never disappoints. I departed from my usual picks here, enjoying the pâté starter and a perfectly cooked salmon burger.

It was a short stroll from dinner to the Sondheim Theater for Beautiful: the Carole King musical. Beautiful is a richly entertaining journey through King’s life and work. Packed with 25 pop hits like “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “So Far Away” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” it’s also a fascinating look at the stories behind these classic songs, soulfully performed by the cast. Catch Beautiful before it closes in September.

Website Apps